This article was first published on Living Grace Blog in 2017, a website that is no longer active. Most of the links on this post are informational, but a few are affiliate links to help maintain this website.
In her book Mind Over Medicine, author and doctor Lissa Rankin discusses how she changed her patient interview process. She used to ask patients about symptoms. Then, she started asking patients, "What do you need in order to heal?" The answers surprised her and changed the way she practiced medicine. People started saying things like, "I need to quit my job," "I need to leave my relationship," etc.
Often times there is a voice in the back of our mind telling us we need to change something. For me that voice started many years before my diagnosis. It told me I needed to leave my job. I was working as a school social worker with mountains of work and heavy responsibility. I ignored it and kept pushing myself and pushing myself, ultimately making myself sick. The Lyme disease, which I'd most likely had since childhood, came out of remission. Then, I no longer had a choice. It was either me or the job. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had stayed at my job I would've ended up on disability. My body just couldn't handle the level of commitment that was expected.
I know the response many people have when they hear this, they say, "I can’t quit my job." Lyme disease treatment is outrageously expensive and most insurance companies won't reimburse doctors for treatment, so we are stuck paying out of pocket. I completely understand that leaving a job is not possible for many Lyme patients, many of whom live on the brink of poverty.
If you can't leave your job or make the other major changes you need to heal right now, it's about finding small ways in which you can work toward the changes. The voice inside my head started telling me I need to leave my job five years before I actually made it happen.
You don't have to quit your job, move across the country, or leave your unhealthy relationship today, but it may help to take some time to think about what it is that you really need in order to heal. Start thinking about small steps you can take to move toward that place. Can you make a commitment to updating your resume, or make an appointment for couples counseling? Can you make a Pinterest board of the place you want to live and research home prices in the area? At the very least can you start a 5 minute a day meditation practice in order to start listening to yourself and asking the question, what do I need heal?
One of the first small changes I needed to make was to change my belief system. I needed to go from looking at my illness as a terrible thing that was thrust upon me, to a message. My illness was here to tell me something and I could either listen and make changes, or I could fight against it live a place of anger postponing the healing process. I started to get quiet and really listen.
Sometimes we think we are completely stuck in our circumstances, and that we are out of options. My personal belief system is that is never true. There is always a teeny tiny adjustment we can make (even if it is just in our attitude), which can tip the scales in our favor. A wise person once told me that I needed to get out of the forest I was in, because all I could see were the trees that were already there. I needed to find a new forest, so I could see new trees, and new possibilities.
Quitting the job I thought I would have forever was the scariest thing I've ever had to do--scarier than the MRIs, the hundreds of needles, and the swabs shoved up my nose. Now every day I wake up and know that I chose myself, I chose my healing, and I made the right choice.
"When an illness is part of your spiritual journey no medical intervention can heal you until your spirit has begun to make the changes that the illness was designed to inspire." - Caroline Myss
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I'm Kerry (She/Her/Hers) and I am a licensed therapist, group facilitator, poet, writer, & speaker. This is a place to acknowledge and validate our suffering and trauma, while also learning how to turn toward aliveness and spaciousness.